Q&A with Jon Leavitt, (10/23/09), Question 5
If Jon Leavitt, leader of the Pro-Question 5 campaign, is sure of anything, it’s that Maine residents will vote “yes” on Question 5 and his efforts will come into fruition come November 3. That was the demeanor of Mr. Leavitt, member of the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative, who took time out of his schedule to give us insight into his campaign. The “field office,” as he described it, was located in downtown Portland, in a very low-key building. Reflective of it’s campaign headquarters in the city, the campaign is taking a quiet approach in the weeks leading up to the election, due to strong support of Question 5 and solid support indicated through polls. Mr. Leavitt made it clear that said poll will make it’s debut come Tuesday of next week. The poll, conducted by the Portland based Pan-Atlantic SMS group, breaks down multiple facets of voter categories, including gender, age, political affiliation, education level, and household income. Mr. Leavitt provided ballotpedia.org with a copy of the poll, but asked not to release it until it has been made public.
Opponents have stated that the DHS would oversee dispensaries, which in their opinion, would hurt medical marijuana laws. What is your response to this?
When you set up a measure like this, you have to have the backing of a state agency. There’s no way around that. When started this, we had a choice of the Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Public safety. We basically had a choice between the cops and the health department. I mean, yeah, of course we’re going to go with the health department.
What about $5,000 a fee for those dispensaries to be set up? Opponents have stated that total fees could amount to $10,000.
That’s wrong information on their part. Our opponents have been giving out misinformation to voters and I don‘t think they‘re a credible source. It’s a $5,000 fee. I don’t think that [fee] would be a problem to for them. I mean they don’t represent patients, they have no one backing their campaign.
Have you known someone close to you who has experience with medical marijuana? What for?
I just had a friend who died last week, who suffered from epileptic seizures. When he took marijuana, it would eliminate those seizures, but he got arrested for growing his own. He just couldn’t find a doctor who would recommend him for medical marijuana. They put him on that synthetic stuff, but it wasn’t working, and I really think he died as a result of him not being able to stay on [medical marijuana].
Do you think voters are aware of what the measure entails? How are you getting the word out to inform voters?
They’re aware. I mean voter support is around 85% for this. The polling shows that Question 5 is ahead by a large margin.
Have you ever worked on a campaign for a ballot measure before this?
(Sighs) Which one haven’t I worked on? Let’s see, well I worked on a measure in Massachusetts that deregulated the electrical industry.
When was this?
In the mid 90’s. For the past 10 years I’ve been working on mostly electoral work though.
How much money have you spent on radio, TV and newspaper ads up to this point?
None. Not to this point.
None at all?
We haven’t had to. We’re just getting a lot of strong support.
Senator Joseph Brannigan stated that this is the “other moral issue” next to Question 1. What groups has your campaign received opposition from?
Nothing. I kid you not. I think some of our opposition is focused on mainly Question 1. But if you look at strong Christian beliefs, it’s easy to point out in the Bible that plants are here for a purpose intended by God . There is an element of compassion in religion, and you can see that this issue helps people and their needs.
If Question 5 is not passed, what is your next step?
Question 5 is going to pass.
You’re that confident? You have no back up plan?
Yeah. I mean, if it fails, our back up plan I guess would be to start all over again. I don’t intend to start all over again.